19 JUL 2009

The Call to Serve in This the Year of the Priest

       So here we are in todayís reading with the Apostles returning from the mission they were sent on in last weeks reading. As we remember in last weeks Gospel Jesus sent the Twelve off to preach repentance and to drive out demons. We can only imagine how far they traveled and how long they were gone, but they returned and by most accounts it was a successful mission. One can only imagine once again how tired and wore out they must have been.

       Remember they left with just the bare essentials as dictated by Jesus and in those days traveling on foot would have been grueling to say the least. Now in todayís world let us think of the business traveler or office manager or any medical or law professional, or truck driver, or traveling construction worker who may be gone for a period of time, working or catching up on continuing education. While most of these people are off working they have accommodations to help offset the stress of being on the road so to speak.

       For over ten years now we have been sending missions of all sorts to our sister parish of St. Marguerite in Port Margo Haiti. We generally leave on a Saturday or Sunday and return the following weekend. I know that the ones have gone many go back and each time we return, we are tired and just want to relax a bit. We all return safely to the wonderful accommodations we have here at home.

       The apostles apparently had no such comfortable accommodations but because of their strong belief in their message and the one who sent them they persevered and returned apparently tired and wore out.

       Jesus the Good Shepherd, sensing the need for his Apostles to take a break says ''Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.'' So word had gotten around that these men have returned and many of them want to hear all that has gone on. The people wanted to hear the good news and they knew that Jesus was the one to share it with them. Some five thousand people managed to arrive at this deserted place ahead of them. Jesus took pity on them and looked upon them as a flock of sheep without a shepherd.

       Not only did he nourish and strengthen his flock with his words of wisdom, this is also the scene were one of his most public miracles happened and that was the feeding of some five thousand with just five loaves and two fish. This feeding story was a precursor to the Eucharist in which Jesusí gestures of blessing and distributing the bread are identical to the last supper.

       Since we are now a month into the Year of The Priest as declared by our Holy Father Pope Benedict, it seems appropriate to look upon our Priestís as our Shepherds. We here today and all Catholic Christians are considered one flock under the Pope who delegates through his Bishops who in turn delegates to his parish priest whom we come to know as our Pastor. The Pope, the Bishop and the Pastor are all considered to be Shepherds. The other Priests who are not pastors are still looked upon as Shepherds; because they lead us in worship also instill upon us the benefit of all their Theological and Seminary training. By virtue of their receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders they become teachers and preachers of our faith.

       If there is one thing in common that we hear from these men who are our priests, is they all had at one time a sense of calling. We hear all the time of people who feel they were called to do something. They all have a feeling of wanting to serve. Through out our lives we have had experiences of being called to do something. Whether or not we listened is another story.

       There is this story I have told about the family who where driving home on evening and the husband and wife were in the front seat and their two young teenage girls were in the back messing with their new cell phones that they had just gotten on the family plan. The husband and wife were talking about priestly vocations and one of the daughters asked why anyone would want to be a priest? The father sensing an opportunity to speak of their catholic faith proceeded to explain to them that it is a calling from God to serve, I stressed that it was a call to serve. As she was holding her new phone she said ''I hope I donít get a call like that.''

       My point is these priests all realized a sense of calling. And make no mistake about it, the women religious of all the different orders that are around acknowledge a call to serve in many different ways as well as our Permanent Deacons such, as myself. With the recent addition of 5 newly ordained priests here in the Archdiocese, including one of our own Sean Danda, let us make a point through out the year to thank our priests for answering the call to serve as our Shepherds.

       Let us always be open to a calling that might be coming through from God and not provide a busy signal. Let us continue to encourage our young people to seek a higher calling, and pray for more men and women to answer the call to serve.

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